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December 20, 2011

Meaningful Customer Conversation is What It’s All About

In the beginning, there were corner grocery stores where proprietors talked face to face with their customers about their goods. Then individual stores became national chains and managed by far away corporate offices where marketing messages were scripted and passed down to be passed on unaltered.

The result. Conversations dried up. Communication became one-way, controlled, and void of all authenticity. Remote marketing officers fell into the illusion that they were managing and maintaining customer relationships. Far from it.

Then social media shifted everything back to one great big small town. A new generation of communicators stepped in insisting their companies engage customers in real-time conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Four Square, Live Chat, and more.

Thanks to social media, customer-driven relationships are back, according to Gary Vaynerchuk, author of the Thank You Economy. Good marketers talk to their customers about life and how their passions or needs are impacted by their products. Less enlightened marketers continue to try to shove products down their customers’ throats with as little to no conversation.

Social media corporate stars such as V8, NY Jets, Martell Home Builders, Zappos, Southwest Airlines are succeeding despite the economy. Lagging companies such as AT&T, Zagat, Nestle that are not adapting to Web 2.0 fast enough or are screwing up their social media as evidenced by their shrinking marketshare.

To win at social media, Print 2.0 Vaynerchuck suggests:

  • Commit to social media
  • Set the tone by being real and throwing away the scripts
  • Invest in employees
  • Empower your people by opening a “Give a Crap” Department
  • Get back to the basics using today’s technology to maintain one-on-one customer touch points (email, Twitter,white papers, Facebook, electronic coupons)
  • Speak with passion and be truly interested. Customers can sniff out companies who try to fake it
  • Talk to your customers as people vs. trying to pick their pockets
  • Make your customers feel like royalty by responding to their every email

To humanize your company when using social media, use these five tips:

  1. Use Your Name. Putting a name (that’s a real, human name) on your blog posts, tweets or status updates shows your audience that you’re not a robot or an automated stream of sales pitches and company news.
  2. Add a Face. By putting a blogger’s photo or the picture of the communication team on your accounts you give followers an idea about whom they’re working with and who is behind the keyboard.  If you prefer to use the company or product logo, you can still add real photos elsewhere under the meet the team or about us page.
  3. Connect with People Through Your Writing Voice.  Now that they know your name and what you look like, let them get a sense of who you really are by your personality through your writing, posts, or tweets.
  4. Interact with your audience in the right wayby really listening to what they have to say and how they say it. How do they interact with you? How do they interact with each other? Listening, as opposed to talking (or selling), allows you to connect with your customers.
  5. Remember Why You’re There.  Participating in social media is a must, but have a clear objective as to why you’re doing it. Otherwise you’re just adding to the noise.

You’re on social media to listen, monitor, respond, fix problems, and build relationships with your customers. Don’t let the channel confuse you. Social media channels are just tools to get us back in pleasant conversation with our customers even though we may be continents away.


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